Employers should not ignore the impact of sickness presence - working when ill- as it relates to lower performance, higher sickness absence, higher work-related stress and poorer psychological wellbeing.
That is the conclusion of a report by Katherine Ashby and Michelle Mahdon of The Work Foundation, published last month.
The report, commissioned by Axa PPP healthcare, found that higher levels of sickness presence were associated with lower manager assessed performance, reduced psychological wellbeing and higher levels of sickness absence.
Three factors, two of which were work related, were significantly linked with higher levels of sickness presence. These included personal financial difficulties and work-related stress and perceived workplace pressure from senior managers, line managers and colleagues to attend work when unwell.
Employees with lower levels of perceived workplace pressure, lower work-related stress and fewer personal financial difficulties reported fewer days of sickness presence compared to those with higher levels of workplace pressure, work-related stress and greater financial difficulties.
Employees who were unable to adjust their work around their health problem were also more likely to report that their performance was adversely affected by working unwell.
Those employees who were finding it difficult to make ends meet, who were unable to save and who were worried a great deal about debt had a significantly higher number of sickness presence days than those without these problems.
Speaking at a seminar launching the report, Stephen Bevan, managing director of The Work Foundation said solutions could be simple, and offer real improvements to a company’s productivity. He referred to the case of an organisation with a workforce of mainly young people, many of whom were saddled with debt who had addressed the issue by offering financial advice in-house.
Bevan said: “This organisation pays a guy once a month, and call him ’money dad’, who provides advice in working time on their finances. the effect on workplace morale and engagement has been phenomenal. This shows how a well-targeted bit of support can achieve big results.”
Dudley Lusted, head of healthcare development at Axa PPP healthcare said: “This report has just told us what the role of the employee assistance programme actually is. If you have £150 to spend on an employee benefit such a gym or an IFA, which is best? I say gyms and lettuce do not make a health and wellbeing strategy.”